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Fewer Mass. teens are having babies, new report shows

Fewer Massachusetts teenagers are having children, pushing the state’s teen birth rate to 50 percent below the national average and its lowest level since 1986, public health officials announced Monday.

Teenagers typically are not as likely as older women to receive adequate prenatal care, which can jeopardize the health of their babies.

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The report, from the state Department of Public Health, also shows the lowest rate of smoking for pregnant women on record in 2010, the latest data available.

The two trends together, health officials say, mean better health for children and families.

“These results show that we continue to make great strides in public health,” Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz said in a news release.

The report shows that in Massachusetts, the 2010 teen birth rate was roughly 17 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19. That declined 12 percent from 2009, when the rate was 19.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19, officials said.

The numbers also show that the percentage of mothers that reported smoking during pregnancy declined from 6.8 percent in 2009 to 6.3 percent in 2010. By comparison, roughly 19 percent of pregnant women in Massachusetts reported smoking back in 1990.

White women were more likely to report smoking during pregnancy than black, Hispanic or Asian women, the report found.

The numbers were not as encouraging for infant deaths among some minority populations, suggesting that health disparities persist among black and Hispanic babies, compared to white infants.

The mortality rate among black infants was 8.2 -- more than twice the 2010 rate of 3.4 among white infants. The Hispanic rate was 6.1, while Asian infant mortality was 4.3.

Kay Lazar can be reached at klazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.
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